Doctors still routinely reassure patients that the side-effects of antidepressants are largely mild and short term – these include drowsiness, dizziness and weight gain that become obvious in the first few weeks and can normally be reversed by trying another type of pill. Yet there is growing evidence that long-term use is linked to more serious health problems including bleeding in the gut, low sodium levels in the elderly (which can lead to falls) and increased risk of stroke. Recently it’s been claimed that some antidepressants may increase the risk of birth defects.
The study examined data from 136,293 study participants, aged 50 to 79, who were not taking antidepressants when they enrolled in the study, and who were followed for an average of six years. The researchers observed a significant difference in stroke rates: antidepressant users were 45 percent more likely to experience strokes than women who weren’t taking antidepressants. The study also found that when overall death rates (all-cause mortality) were compared between the two groups, those on antidepressants had a 32 percent higher risk of death from all causes compared with non-users.
Joanna Moncrieff of University College London wrote an opinion piece recently for the BBC. Contrary to the impression promoted by the psychiatric and drug industries, psychiatric drugs do not work by correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain.